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A view on Blu-ray and DVD video by Leonard Norwitz

Sons of Anarchy Season One [Blu-ray]

 

(Created, Produced & Written by Kurt Sutter , 2008)

 

 

 

 

 

Review by Leonard Norwitz

 

Studio:

Theatrical: FX Network

Blu-ray: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

 

Disc:

Region: All

Runtime: 594 min

Chapters: 13

Size: 50 GB

Case: Standard Blu-ray Case w/ flip-page

Release date: August 18th, 2008

 

Video:

Aspect ratio: 1.78:1

Resolution: 1080p

Video codec: AVC @ 23 Mbps

 

Audio:

English DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1; Spanish Dolby Digital

 

Subtitles:

English SDH, Spanish & French

 

Extras:

• Audio Commentary on Selected Episodes by Kurt Sutter & Cast

• The Making of Sons of Anarchy, Season One – in HD (8:59)

• Casting – in HD (14:47)

• The Ink – in HD (4:50)

• The Bikes – in HD (7:05)

• Anarchy on the Set – in SD (6:55)

• 26 Deleted Scenes – in SD (35:08)

 

 

The Film: 7
In September of 2008, Fox's FX channel premiered Sons of Anarchy, developed by Kurt Sutter, a former writer/producer for one of FX's most popular and most critically acclaimed series, The Shield. While there are obvious nods to The Sopranos and a sly set-up reminiscent of Hamlet, Sons of Anarchy stands on its own terms.
 

Excerpted from Wikipedia:
The Sons of Anarchy is an outlaw motorcycle club with many charters in the United States. The [Northern California] Charming local is the original founding charter of the Sons of Anarchy. Led by Clay Morrow, the club protects and controls Charming through close community relationships, bribery and violent intimidation. The full name of the motorcycle club is Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle Club, Redwood Original [abbreviated "Sam Crow"]. Club members have "day jobs" in local industries, most of them working at Clay's auto repair shop, but they primarily make money by importing illegal weapons and selling them to drug gangs in the East Bay, along with protection runs for local businesses by protecting valuable truck shipments from hijacking.

The family drama is loosely based on Shakespeare's Hamlet. Clay (Ron Perlman)is based on the role of King Claudius, and Gemma (Katey Sagal) as a Gertrude figure. Jax (Charlie Hunnam) stands in for Prince Hamlet himself; his reflective questioning of the SOA culture, brought on by the birth of his son, references Hamlet's melancholy over the death of the king. Additionally, Jax "communicates" with his dead father by way of his late father's unpublished journal/manuscript. Creator Sutter has said of the Shakespeare element, "I don't want to overplay that but it's there. It was Jax's father who started the club, so he's the ghost in the action. You wonder what he would have made of the way it turned out. It's not a version of Hamlet but it's definitely influenced by it." – Wikipedia.

The challenge for Sutter is to make a band of outlaws likeable and interesting enough for us to want to spend a few years with them – and, all the while neither excusing nor. to any profound extent, explaining their behavior. Such behavior and the attitudes that go with it are more or less a given. These people choose their line of work and their associates. They were not the sons of daughters of criminally abusive parents. Their reasons are political, social and the scent of a certain kind of adventure. Sutter not only carefully, intelligently crafts a family drama at the heart of the violence and macho-control, but has animated his characters with actors who look the part and can engage our sympathies while we surreptitiously enjoy their carnage.

Britisher Charlie Hunnam is not only easy on the eyes, but exudes questioning vulnerability. Even so we can image him at some point becoming “king.” There’s Ron Perlman, whose face holds more layers of untold mysteries than just about any actor alive; Katie Sagal – was this the hair that once was Peg Bundy? Unimaginable! A serious actress, this is. Mark Boone Junior, who added so much texture to Deadwood’s Gem Saloon, is seen as the club’s accountant – and account, he does. Drea de Mateo is Jax’s drug-addicted ex-wife and the mother of his premature baby boy. Maggie Siff, from Mad Men, is Jax’s old girlfriend. A host of outstanding supporting actors make up the rest of the Sam Crow club, various adversaries and agents of the law.
 

Excerpt of review from Wikipedia located HERE

 


 

Image: 8/9   NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.
The first number indicates a relative level of excellence compared to other Blu-ray video discs on a ten-point scale. The second number places this image along the full range of DVD and Blu-ray discs.

Eschewing the slick presentation of a Dexter or Lost, Sons of Anarchy offers a solid, generally unfiltered feel to the image. The producers haven't settled on a consistent look – as, for example, Deadwood or The Tudors; rather, contrast, color and resolution takes its lead from the scene, lending a spontaneous impression to events. Shot in HD video, there is little grain or noise to the image, except mostly for night shots which adds to the grit factor. In short, the image quality naturally supports and reflects both any given scene's dramatic and brightness characteristics. There are some shots where you feel you can reach out and touch the leather jacket textures, but high resolution is a hit and miss affair. I spotted no artifacts (perhaps a wee bit of noise in a few of the darkest scenes), enhancements, DNR or damage. All in all, pretty damn good.

 

CLICK EACH BLU-RAY CAPTURE TO SEE ALL IMAGES IN FULL 1920X1080 RESOLUTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Audio & Music: 7/8
Curious thing about the rendering of dialogue: it is always clear, with a noticeable amount of presence added, more so with indoor scenes, regardless of the location. This makes things seem a little surreal as compared to the image, which goes for a more natural look. I think the producers would do well to have the one support the other instead of working subtly against one another. However, it is nice to know what people are saying without having to activate subtitles. In respect to effects: again, the tendency is for a more natural sound field. Harley engines throb deeply but do not scare us half to death nor rattle our kidneys; gunfire is not heightened for effect. Surrounds and pans are well used when the bikes pass the point of view and when the action is all around, whether this be explosions, fire, or fisticuffs. As expected the music tends to country/blues, with various songs covered current groups and at least one number by our lead actress, Katey Sagal.

 

Operations: 3
Except for the lone commentaries on each disc, all of the special features are reserved for disc 3. The menu employs my least favorite mechanism for revealing what's on the disc: one at a time pop-ups, so that we can't see all the episode titles or all the extra features in one window. And, for reasons passing understanding, the audio commentary on discs 1 and 2 are hidden under Audio/Set-up, with no Special Features indicated on their menus. I say "hidden" because we are given no indication on the cover as to how many there are, or on which discs. Anyhow, I for one, rarely check out Audio Set-up. I find it easier simply to use the display info button on my remote during play. (Some Blu-ray discs are set up so that commentaries cannot be accessed on the fly but, thankfully, this isn't one of them.) The audio commentary on disc three, on the other hand, is found on the menu under both the Audio/Set-up and Special Features. Go figure. In the latter case, it is not intuitive to know whether you have activated the commentary or not. Not a good design.

 

 

 

Extras: 6
You gotta hand it to any attempt to break the record for most number of actors to appear on a live roundtable commentary. In this case it’s 9: in addition to Kurt Sutter, who acts as a sort of de facto moderator though moderation is not exactly the watchword here. The commentary, which accompanies the final episode of the season, is about what you’d expect and hope for when a gang of ersatz outlaw cycle-bangers gets a chance to reminisce over an open mike. While it doesn’t really get out of hand, it does make for an enjoyable entertainment. The commentary for the Pilot episode with Sutter and his three principal actors is more staid and, in its way, more informative; ditto for Episode 8 "The Pull" with Sutter, actors Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff, and director Guy Ferland.

The remainder of the extra features include two brief featurettes on the tattoos and insignia designed for the series; an extended piece (nearly a quarter of an hour) about the casting, including brief audition footage; a not quite ten minute Making-Of piece that focuses on how the series came to be; over two dozen (I lost count) deleted scenes averaging about a minute and a half per; and a seven-minute Gag Reel titled ”Anarchy on the Set” whose two and half minute introduction is funnier than the bloopers. The Deleted Scenes and Anarchy Reel are both in anamorphic SD, but look better than many such attempts.

 

 

Bottom line: 8
If you like your testosterone action tempered with intense family drama, the Blu-ray of Sons of Anarchy comes warmly recommended, despite its misguided menu. The picture quality is very good and the audio clear and immersive. The Extra Features, if slim, are entertaining and, in the case of “The Ink” at least, of some historical and cultural interest.

 

Leonard Norwitz
August 23rd, 2009

Revisited August 2010

 

 

 

 


 

About the Reviewer: I first noticed that some movies were actually "films" back around 1960 when I saw Seven Samurai (in the then popular truncated version), La Strada and The Third Man for the first time. American classics were a later and happy discovery.

My earliest teacher in Aesthetics was Alexander Sesonske, who encouraged the comparison of unlike objects. He opened my mind to the study of art in a broader sense, rather than of technique or the gratification of instantaneous events. My take on video, or audio for that matter – about which I feel more competent – is not particularly technical. Rather it is aesthetic, perceptual, psychological and strongly influenced by temporal considerations in much the same way as music. I hope you will find my musings entertaining and informative, fun, interactive and very much a work in progress.


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